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The Science Behind Aromatherapy and CBD’s Role In It

Written by Lisa Rennie

Did you know that certain smells can induce specific feelings and emotions, and even alleviate negative energy that you may be experiencing?

That’s the idea behind aromatherapy, which makes use of aromatic plant oils to improve emotional and behavioral experiences. Aromatherapy has long been used as an alternative type of therapy to enhance physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. In fact, ancient Chinese, Greek, and Egyptian civilizations used essential oils for therapeutic and spiritual purposes, so the basis of aromatherapy goes back a long way.

While aromatherapy has been considered an alternative type of therapy, it has been increasingly gaining recognition in the medical field. People who inhale specific essential oils do so in an effort to experience specific reactions. For some, alleviating anxiety is the intended purpose. For others, reducing nausea might be sought.

Terpenes are what give essential oils their scents and stimulating tranquility. [1] When coupled with cannabinoids, such as CBD, the therapeutic effects of the terpenes may be enhanced.

Inhaling Essential Oils

The aromas that we inhale are carried through the olfactory system into the limbic system of the cerebrum in the brain, which is where emotions and emotional behavior are carried out. [2] The limbic system is a network of connected structures that make up all sorts of emotions, motivations, and memories. It’s an instinctive system that has little to do with conscious thought processes.

Any sensory information that the limbic system receives is therefore instinctively translated into a certain emotional and behavioral response. The resulting experience will change depending on the specific type of essential oil being inhaled.

For instance, some oils might make a person feel more relaxed, while others make them feel more alert and excited. Some people may experience a release of muscle tension, while others might feel more positive overall, having released negative emotions.

The science behind the inhalation of essential oils to trigger specific emotions stems from the fact that our sense of smell is more powerful than all other senses. Further, the brain immediately recognizes aromas, and as such, the resulting emotions of inhaling certain essential oils are also immediate.

How Does CBD Play a Role in Aromatherapy?

Considering that CBD oil has already been shown to alleviate pain and anxiety, [3] it would stand to reason that CBD oil may have a viable place in the world of aromatherapy.

CBD has been shown to be a powerful agent to foster balance in the mind and body. [4] When the body is in proper balance, the person can feel calmer and more focused. Combining different terpenes and CBD can induce various experiences thanks to the powerful synergy between them. And by using terpenes from different plants along with CBD, people with certain ailments who incorporate this cannabinoid into their aromatherapy sessions may experience certain benefits that CBD has already scientifically been shown to have.


  1. Cho, K.S., et al, “Terpenes from Forests and Human Health“, Toxicological Res., 2017,Volume 33(2): Pages 97–106. [Timed Cited = 20; Journal Impact Factor = 1.89].
  2. Sowndhararajan, K. and Kim, S., “Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic Response“, Sci Pharm. 2016, Volume 84(4): Pages 724–752. [Timed Cited = 19; Journal Impact Factor = N/A]
  3. Blessing, E., et al, “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders“, Neurotherapeutics, 2015, Volume 12(4): Pages 825–836. [Timed Cited = 119; Journal Impact Factor = 5.719].
  4. Fine, P. and Rosenfeld, M., “The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain“, Rambam Maimonides Med J, 2013, Volume 4(4): e0022. [Timed Cited = 79; Journal Impact Factor = 7].

About the author

Lisa Rennie

Lisa Simoneli Rennie has been working as a freelance writer for more than a decade, creating unique content dedicated to informing consumers. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others, and in her spare time, Lisa enjoys trying funky new recipes, spending time with her dog, and of course, reveling in the joy of family.

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